Degrassi Junior High: 105 “The Great Race”

There’s a race in this episode, but to call it “great” is kind of a stretch.

Season 1 Episode 5
Airdate: February 15, 1987

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Ah, the perils of puberty. Melanie, who spends a lot of time looking at her boobs (or lack thereof) in the mirror, is concerned about being flat-chested. Speaking of boobs, check out Stephanie Kaye bearing midriff! Joey isn’t allowed to wear a hat in class, but Steph can wear an I Dream of Jeannie costume? That is so sexist.

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All of a sudden, L.D. appears over Steph’s shoulder with goblin-like eyes and a wardrobe fit for a lumberjack. Something something, they won the swim meet, something something. Meanwhile, Melanie and grade 8 stud Archie “Snake” Simpson exchange flirty glances. But she’s not the only one with her eyes set on Snake…

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Partners in dumbassery Yick and Arthur barely reach 5 feet tall. So you can imagine why even dorky losers like Snake can seem intimidating. He’s a clear 2 feet taller than they are. Jesus.

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Every clip in the theme song is pulled from this episode, such as the guys’ soccer team all turning around in unison. I’m not sure why they used this episode instead of the pilot, unless it’s because they had bigger budget for this episode. Look, they rented a white van and put letter decals on it. That’s big budget stuff, man. Like, Avatar-quality shit.

Anyway, L.D. and Melanie are pissed that the captain of the boys’ soccer team, Jason, never mentions the girls’ sports on the morning announcements, even though the girls won a regional swim meet. Apparently, the boys’ soccer team has never won a single game, which Jason blames on “bad luck.” They get in an argument over which gender is more athletic. Seeing as most of the girls have hit their growth spurts and many of the boys haven’t, I think the girls pretty much have this cat in the bag.

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Fed up with Melanie’s whining about how her mom won’t buy her a bra, L.D. lugs Melanie to a department store. It’s clear that by strapping a bra over her face, L.D. has no idea how to wear a bra, but that doesn’t deter Melanie from buying one anyway.

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TADAAAAH! Melanie’s hilariously creepy bra makes its debut. Everyone from Stephanie and Caitlin to Joey and Tim awkwardly compliment her weird, pointy boobs. Joey asks Melanie if she’s got any Kleenex, and then Tim delivers a line about cantaloupes being in season. Overall, it’s pretty clever for a bunch of 12-year-olds.

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Wai “The Chubby Chinese Kid” Lee, Wheels, and Jason come to the realization that they are all terrible swimmers and that they’ll definitely lose the swim contest against beastly L.D. While in the stairwell, Wai Lee delivers this clunker of a line: “We’ll look pretty dumb if we lose.” Don’t worry, you already look dumb.

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Jason recruits Snake for the boys’ swim contest, which is technically cheating since he’s not on the soccer team. Meanwhile, Yick and Arthur spy on Snake in order to figure out how he got to be so tall. Since Snake is eating yogurt, the pair decide it must be the yogurt. Their brains are so puny that they honestly believe that eating yogurt will make them tall.

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The two dweebs take action and decide that for getting taller, the solution is eating lots of yogurt and stretching themselves out in the gym. Why, oh why?! Why can’t Arthur be as cool as his guido sister, Stephanie!? She keeps talking about her “hot pink wet-look bikini” that she almost wore, except for there are crowds that are apparently swarming the swim meet. For her position as referee, a pink tube top is less appropriate but equally amazing. Man, the 80s ruled.

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While the teams get prepped for The Great Race (episode title, hoooo boy!), both the boys and the girls find out they are missing their star swimmers. They’re both outside the school, confiding in each other in a rare sincere moment. Melanie’s afraid of what hilarious wisecracks Joey and the other guys will make about her tiny breasts, and Snake feels guilty about not actually being on the swim team.

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It’s too bad Melanie is the one with body image issues and not Wai Lee. Nobody wants to see that.

The audience is loudly singing the Degrassi Junior High fight song with all the excitement of a 10th-century church hymn. Finally, Melanie shows up in the nick of time. As she exits the locker room, Joey slams her with this classic line:

“You’re so flat, the walls are jealous!”

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L.D. goes all Hulk on Joey and throws him into the pool. TAKE THAT, GENDER INEQUALITY!  Stephanie declares the competition open, then fires a loaded pistol into the ceiling. TAKE THAT, GENDER INEQUALITY!

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Of course, the girls win The Great Race. Because Snake went to Jupiter to get more stupider, the race was 4 vs. 3.

Overall, this episode was alright. All of the tiny boob jokes made to Melanie are pretty true to life. Middle school girls put up with unimaginable amounts of bullshit from their peers, so it’s nice to see someone overcome that. I also like that they addressed gender inequality even though the characters are just 12-13 years old. However, at some points, the moral of the story gets obscured by Stephanie’s over-the-top sexy wardrobe. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Yick and Arthur plot was so incredibly stupid, I took several sleeping pills trying to forget that I saw it. And Jason’s acting was so bad, his character could have been replaced by a cardboard cutout and no one would have noticed. In sum, this Race was not all that Great.